A 13-year old’s hunger strike to make her village Open Defecation Free

-HC Lavanya
| Tagged in: Real & Uncommon Heroes, Think Tank, World Movements

HUBBALLI: Following in the footsteps of Mallamma Bagalpur of Koppal – who protested demanding toilets at her home – HC Lavanya, 13, an eighth standard student in Hemadal village, Hiriyur taluk in Chitradurga district, launched a hunger strike demanding that the village administration ensure each house is equipped with a lavatory.

Lavanya commenced her silent protest at 11am on Tuesday morning, near the village bus terminal with the portraits of Dr BR Ambedkar and Gandhiji beside her. Her hunger strike drew the attention of scores of villagers, and also of the taluk panchayat officers. On Wednesday afternoon, a team of officers, zilla panchayat members and other elected representatives assured her that toilets would be constructed in a week at houses which do not have the facility, following which Lavanya withdrew her strike. After ending her strike, Lavanya accompanied the officials to the houses in the village, and requested the families to have a toilet built in their homes, with government funds.In her presence, officials issued orders to those, who did not have toilets, to build one in a week’s time.

A student of Government High School in Hemadal, Lavanya told TOI that she took up the protest since she felt that the practice of relieving oneself either hidden behind bushes or in the fields was not healthy. “It was not only irritating, but also spoilt our village’s healthy atmosphere. I wondered why these people did not worry about their dignity. We have a toilet in our house and everyone in the house uses it. I wanted all villagers to have this facility,” she added.

Recounting the recent death of a woman in Balagatta village in Bovi colony after she was attacked by a rogue elephant when she was relieving herself, Lavanya said, “If there had been a toilet at her home, she would not have been killed by an elephant. The incident prompted me to take up the strike. I want to ensure that each family in the village has a toilet and that the taluk panchayat officers provide the required support. I will wait for a week. If any family fails to build a toilet , I will go on a hunger strike in front of their houses.”

When she informed her decision to start hunger strike, her family supported her wholeheartedly . Her father.HK Channakeshva, a farmer, said, “I’m proud of my daughter. She protested to create awareness about toilets among villagers, and also to force officials to issue the necessary work orders. When Lavanya told me about her plan to go a hunger strike, I encouraged her.”

Pointing to the prevalent practice of open defecation in the village by both men and women, Channakeshva added: “If my daughter’s efforts bring about any change, I will be very happy .”

Executive officer at the Hiriyur ta luk panchayat, Sridhar Barker said: “I visited the village immediately on hearing of Lavanya’s hunger strike.Along with other officials, I assured her that each family in the village will have a toilet in a week.”

Of the 315 families in Hiriyur, around 70 households do not have toilets, Sridhar said: “We have issued work orders to the families asking them to start construction work and complete it in a week. Next week, I will visit the village to check whether they have built their toilets or not,” he added.

Financial support:

While families belonging to the general category are eligible to avail a sum of Rs 12,000 for building a toilet, SCST families will be given Rs 15,000.

Commending Lavanya on her initiative, Sridhar said: “I appreciate the efforts she has taken to sensitise villagers on the importance of toilets .”

Zilla panchayat member Shashikala Sureshbabu said that Lavanya had succeeded in convincing villagers to think seriously on the importance of toilets. “Many villagers refused to build toilets when we asked them. But, after Lavanya launched her strike, they have now agreed to have them,” she said.

Venkatesh, a resident of Hiriyur village, said that Lavanya’s protest had motivated him and his family to have a toilet at their house.
“I don’t have a toilet in my house, and we all go outside to relieve ourselves. After Lavanya’s protest, we have realized the importance of having one at home. I have received a work order and have started construction. I will have a toilet in my house in a couple of days,” he added.

Source – Times of India

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